Fresh off a five-week vacation, lawmakers return to Washington on Monday for a brief pre-election session in which Congress will do what it often does best: punt its problems to the future.
There's a slew of deadlines and the prospect of a debilitating "fiscal cliff" in January. But lawmakers are expected to take a pass on the big issues of taxes and spending cuts and instead focus on doing the bare minimum - preventing a government shutdown when the budget year ends on Sept. 30.
At issue is a six-month temporary spending bill to finance the day-to-day operations of the federal government. The annual appropriations process on Capitol Hill collapsed about midway through the campaign season.